Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty
Have you ever heard the saying "your ears must have been burning"? Usually it describes someone who turns up coincidentally when they're being discussed. Turns out if you speak the name of a witch aloud their ears must spontaneously combust, since no sooner does your Grandma drop the name of the sinister old hag whose school she once fled does the lady herself appear in the room. (I guess don't gossip around ravens wearing tacky jewelry?) You may have been able to save Granny from Madame Flemet's (carefully choreographed to be as dramatic as possible) attack, but it was at the cost of your own youth, and unless you want to settle down with a purse full of Werther's Originals and some needlepoint, you'll need to track down and face the witch on her own turf. Top Evidence Studio's Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty is a gorgeous hidden-object adventure that might be a bit too by-the-numbers for some, but delivers a fun experience that manages to be somehow elegant and gleefully cheesy at the same time.
Funnily enough, it doesn't seem like anyone got suspicious that the headmistress of a prestigious girls' finishing school was looking just as fresh-faced as the day it opened a hundred years or so ago, so Madame Flemet's had ample time to perfect her technique of sapping the youth and vitality out of her young charges. Not to mention turning the remains of the school into a veritable fortress of puzzles, tricks, traps, and hidden-object scenes. Everyone knows witches are all about carefully hiding important items in meticulously arrange junk piles, after all. I mean, Madame Flemet may have just cursed you into wizened-ness to satiate her own malicious energy, but that's no reason not to play fair, so you've also got three difficulty settings to choose from as well. Hunt for clues, solve puzzles, and, hey, you never know... you might just unlock a little magic of your own.
Analysis: If there's anything particularly negative to say about Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty, it's that it's hard to deny a lot of its concepts feel pretty familiar, and the gameplay doesn't do too much to spice things up from what you've come to expect from this style of title. . It's an absolute knock-out, with the stunning artwork and clean lines you've come to expect from Top Evidence Studios, and players looking for a game that doesn't deliver an oppressively grim experience will find a lot to love here. It's just a little spooky without ever really feeling morbid or dark, and has a hefty dose of the same sort of charm you'd expect to get from a fairytale related by your grandmother. Or maybe Roald Dahl's grandmother.
But though slow to start and not exactly what you would call a big risk taker, Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty is one of the most gorgeous games you could ask for if you're looking for a relaxing evening's play. The addition of spells that you can use to uncover items or perform certain tasks is a neat idea, and with the addition of other victims of the witch's curse who you can help, you're given great incentive to stop Flemet once and for all. The hint function is debateably helpful on certain occasions outside of hidden-object scenes, and story fiends will wish for a journal to keep track of all the notes you'll find. People who want their Collector's Editions to have a lot of bells and whistles will want to try the demo, but with its gorgeous design and substantial gameplay, it makes for a tasty bit of low-key entertainment for hidden-object adventure fans to make a date with.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.
Mac OS X:
Also available: Collector's Edition